Book Review – Kind Nepenthe by Matthew Brockmeyer

In this debut novel by Matthew Brockmeyer, hippy idealists Rebecca and Calendula move to the hills of Humboldt County to run Coyote’s pot growing operation, hoping to earn enough money to buy a plot of land for themselves. The only problem is, the land itself has a long history of death and malevolence, and it doesn’t take too long before they start to feel its influence. This book has a slow build; however, Mr. Brockmeyer is talented enough so that it never gets boring or dull. One can almost envision him moving his characters as if they’re pieces on a chess board, setting them up for a final conclusion that you won’t forget anytime soon.

What else can I say about this? Lots of things – it’s well written, shocking, and at times it’s reminiscent of The Shining, though this story is its own beast. The characters feel real, and even when they’re making poor decisions, it’s always clear why they’re doing so. Mr. Brockmeyer obviously put a lot of thought into their motivations and actions. For those of you who are already familiar with his short stories, you know that they’re dark, melancholic, and a hell of a lot of fun – Kind Nepenthe is no exception. Get it, you won’t be sorry.

Kind Nepenthe can be purchased here.

The Seer of Possibilities – Thomas O. (Review)

Here’s a recent review for The Seer of Possibilities. Thank you for your words Peritract/Inconsistant Spacing!

Inconsistent Pacing

41zIUKyWWdLThe Seer of Possibilitiesand other Disturbing Tales is a collection of short horror stories. All the stories are independent, although there are some hints that suggest a shared universe for some of them.

A young boy gets his Christmas wish. A surveying expedition to a new world has personnel problems. A young artist is taught how to reach her full potential. Those are some of the ideas inside the collection. 

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Checking Out the Critical Comments

The great thing about posting your stories online is that you can get tons of comments about what you’ve written. I’ve been fortunate in the fact that people seem to like the way I arrange words into a story, and most of the comments I’ve received have been generous and pleasant. Unfortunately, not everything is sunshine and rainbows in the online world, and I’ve gotten my share of critical remarks too. The best critical comments help you to improve your writing, and those are always valued. Some other negative comments might not be as useful, but they often pay their way by at least being amusing. Taking the time to highlight some of the negative comments I’ve received might not be the smartest thing for an aspiring writer to do on his personal blog. After all, it’s hardly the way to convince you that my writing is worth your time, but if you’re already here and reading this, it’s probably because you already stumbled across something of mine that you found appealing. So maybe you won’t be turned off after all (fingers crossed). Let’s look at what people have said and see what lessons can be learned from them.

The Final Fate of Mary Ford: A young girls dies and haunts her family. Of all the stories I’ve written, this is my favorite. It seemed to go over rather well, evoking a strong emotional reaction from many of the commenters, but some people had major problems with the main character:

  • “Not trying to be rude, I just think the story was awful in being scary, and in the form itself. I see it’s kinda unique, but the character is not likeable at all. If that’s what the author intended, then fine. But the author wants us to feel sympathy for her in the end, but she was already unlikeable. Even the “Tragic Death” was really weird and not worded great. The story just really wasn’t good, nor scary.” Jesse Trail – from a youtube reading of the story
  • “Hmm, building up? That reminds me of something… Oh yeah! BUILDING UP CHARACTERS! You did not build up Mary, or even Jacob. Mary seemingly out of nowhere hates her family, and Mary has such a foul mouth at such an age back then. Mary likes to mess with Jacob when he is vunerable, and make him get in trouble. THAT’S THE ONLY BUILD UP WE GOT! She’s such an arse, and REALLY unlikeable.” Excerpted from a much longer comment by LuckiestLuigi – Creepypasta wiki
  • “Story made me cringe so much my ass cheek started to hurt when i found out that mary was only a little bitch ass motherfucker”  THeWingzert VA – Creepypasta.com

Lesson learned: Don’t make your protagonist too unlikable. Mary was meant to be a bit of an unreliable narrator, or at least one sided in her retelling, but the fault is mine for not making that clear enough. I’m a strong believer that every reader’s opinion is valid, even if they missed something you thought you had conveyed. A work of fiction is always open to the personal interpretation of your audience, so it’s never the fault of the reader if they didn’t like it.

The Seer of Possibilities: Easily my most popular story. People really seemed to love this one, but not everybody was on board:

  • “Why do so many people like this story? I could have easily written it myself. Have you never heard of the butterfly effect, or what? I think of it every day. ANYBODY could have easily written this..”  Desiree – creepypasta.com
  • “What a disappointing story. Predictable, bland, and unvivacious”   dontdelivermefromevil – creepypasta.com
  • “The car crash made no sense. First you say that the girl Allie was driving. Then you say that the driver was a “he”. Then you say the driver was thrown out of the vehicle. and Finally you say the driver’s seat was crushed to 1/3 of its original size and the girl was dead inside…. wtf? Seems like someone had a stroke when writing this part.” Proofreadyourstorykid – creepypasta.com

Lesson learned: I dunno – not much to go on here. These ones are all over the board. I guess you could say that people who contemplate the butterfly effect on a daily basis aren’t easily impressed by my writing.

Three Truths: A friend, a wife, a demon, and a choice. What could possibly go wrong?
This is one story that’s all about the ending, but not everyone appreciated it:

  • “Man what a f!!king lazy ending. That’s literally the worst ending I’ve ever heard on any CreepyPasta, what a cop-out!!! Good story ruined by a lazy author. Would it of been so difficult for us to know what he did, maybe even run into Baal again? Goodness.” Knowwe – from a youtube narration
  • “I couldn’t enjoy this because I figured the ending out while he was still talking to Baal… I suppose that’s my bad… It was also pretty much impossible to feel too upset that things backfired for the dude – he ripped out his best friend’s heart for a god he knew was a lier. And when he has his 3 truths he wastes them. And he thinks Baal somehow knows how Donatiya is feeling right now, but not how he feels about his family.” Excerpted from a longer comment by Cez

Lesson learned: Most people seemed to be happy with this story, even those who correctly guessed the ending. Still, comments like these are useful, because there are certainly others who feel the same way but didn’t take the time to tell me. The first one was a bit over-zealous gave me a chuckle, but as I already mentioned above, his point is still valid. Ya can’t win ‘em all, I guess. I do take issue with the “lazy writer” part, because I actually spend quite a lot of time thinking things through.

The Perfectly Behaved Boy – A Dark Christmas Tale: My attempt at a Krampus-style story. Probably my least favorite among what I’ve written, but it’s my second most popular story, and it was featured in the Christmas episode over at Chilling Tales for Dark Nights. It features an ending that’s fairly easy to predict. Here are some of the negatives:

  • “He says ‘I just want them back.’ And from this point on, I’m like, ‘those mysterious heads are going to show up again. Oh cool, you just telegraphed your twist real hard.’”
  • I feet though, in the writing of it, that this person was using this as a showcase for their vocabulary.
  • “There was some stilted language. (He) could’ve used more natural sounding words” – All three comments are from the Creepypodsta Podcast, Episode 59

Lesson learned: A showcase for my vocabulary? Guilty – I have a tendency to go back and rewrite my sentences, and then go back and rewrite them again. I think that the more I do that, the more unnatural they end up being. I should probably stick to no more than two drafts. Also, it’s a tough find the balance between an ending that feels completely natural yet is also surprising at the same time.